What Makes Something an Antique

antique perfume bottle

Have you ever wondered what makes something an antique? Well, you aren't alone. The terms antique and vintage are often times used incorrectly.

Vintage, Collectible, or Antique

Many people use the work antique to refer to something that is really vintage or even just a collectible. A vintage item is generally any item that is at least twenty years old whether it is clothing, jewelry, or furniture. Some people use the word antique to describe vintage dishes, for example but just because something is old doesn't make it an antique.

The term collectible is given to an item of any age that people want to collect. Ty Beanie Babies were a hot collectible through the 1990s and some items sold for hundreds of dollars. Some of these collectibles sold for more than actual antiques.

Antique generally refers to anything that is one hundred years old or more. In 2010 an antique dish would have had to be made sometime before 1910. This all began in the 1930s by the United States legislature when they passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. You see, antiques could be brought into the United States as a duty free import. By creating a limit to how new something could be, the legislature was able to collect more taxes. It created a standard for what an antique really is.

Since then there have been some adjustments in some categories. Automobiles, electronic items, power tools, and other more modern items are often considered an antique once they are 50 years old.

What Makes an Antique Desirable

One antique may be very desirable to one collector and not desirable at all to another. The desirability of an item depends on many things and changes for each person. It is also what causes someone to pay a high price for something that someone else would throw away.


The main reason an antique is desirable to someone is that there is some sort of personal attachment. Maybe a certain pattern of china was the same as the one your grandmother used or a beautiful vase reminds you of the same one that your mother had. Whatever the reason, if an antique appeals to a person emotionally they will often be willing to pay dearly for it.

Antiques can appeal to people's emotions in other ways. Perhaps they have a historic home and wish to decorate in a historically accurate way. By using antique furniture and accessories they can get an authentic look in their home. Antique art and accessories adds an elegant look that many people appreciate.


Many antiques show exquisite craftsmanship and beauty. Because antiques were often handmade each one can be considered a work of art. This craftsmanship is not often available in today's items except those created by artisans. Craftsmanship makes items not only desirable but also collectible because it is unique, one of a kind and not easily reproduced.


An antique that has belonged to someone famous or was involved in a well known historical event is said to have provenance. This helps to give an antique more value.The colonial saddle that George Washington used is worth much more than a colonial saddle that John Smith the farmer used.

Importance of Knowing What Makes Something an Antique

It is important to know what makes something an antique whether you are a beginning collector or have lots of experience in collecting. If you know the definition of antique then you will help ensure that you do not pay too much for your item.

The more experience you get with antiques the easier it will be to spot originals from reproductions.

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What Makes Something an Antique